Holiday shoppers boost retail sales


Published: Wednesday, January 14, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 14, 2004 at 12:27 a.m.
Holiday shoppers boosted December's retail sales in Gainesville and around the state, resulting in double-digit increases for some merchants.
Rachel Klaus, an owner of Klaus Fine Jewelry on NW 43rd Street, said the store had experienced a "fabulous" month, with sales 20 percent higher than a year ago - December 2002.
"We did great, and I attribute it to all of our customers. The last two weeks are always the busiest in the season, but it was steady throughout the month," Klaus said.
Statewide, December was a good month on average for retailers, said Rick McAllister, president and CEO of the Tallahassee-based Florida Retail Federation.
"Retailers probably did about 6 percent over the last year," he said. Some chains saw a 10 percent increase in December 2003 compared to a year ago, while other stores reported they had barely reached the 2002 numbers, he added.
But last month will be remembered by Paul Nelson, manager of J.C. Penney at The Oaks Mall.
"It was one of the best Decembers I've had," Nelson said. "This store was up about 9 percent in December sales, and we're going to finish up the year beating our projections. As a whole the chain was up 4.3 percent."
Merchandise in the store's home department and from the spa segment were popular as gift items, Nelson said. He attributed the store's increased sales in part to frequent advertised sales and the fresh flow of merchandise provided by corporate headquarters.
Overall, The Oaks Mall stores, which now number 140, including restaurants, have seen a definite increase in sales over the past year, said Becky Bumgarner, mall marketing director.
"We had a very good December, as 65 percent of the reports received so far from stores in The Mall have indicated increases, some 10 percent or higher," Bumgarner said. "Jewelry and clothing are very strong so far."
She added that the November 2003 year-to-date report indicated sales were up 12 percent over the previous year.
National retail sales figures for December are not scheduled for release until Thursday, but Scott Krugman, spokesman for the National Retail Federation, said the association is anticipating a 5.7 percent increase for December and 4.3 percent for the year.
Doris Chandler can be reached at 374-5094, or chandld@gvillesun.com

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